Clarkston’s Director of Police Services turns in badge and gun, won’t be paid by cityClarkston Director of Police Services John Pearson attends the Clarkston City Council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, Behind Pearson is Clarkston Police Chief Christine Hudson. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Clarkston, GA — Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks said Director of Police Services John Pearson has turned in his badge, gun, and city vehicle as of Aug. 9 and that he won’t be paid by the city after working there for about three weeks.
Pearson’s departure comes as the city tries to move forward after parting ways with City Manager Shawanna Qawiy. The council approved her separation agreement on Aug. 7. The city currently does not have a city manager.
After Police Chief Christine Hudson filed an equal employment opportunity complaint claiming Qawiy had animus toward white people, Qawiy hired Pearson as the director of police services and demoted Hudson.
Weeks after Hudson’s demotion, the city could not produce any information documenting that he had been hired or what this salary would be. After media inquiries, Pearson said in a press release that he was operating on a “verbal agreement” with the city manager and would be sworn in Aug. 1.
But he was sworn in on July 27, the same day Hudson asked Pearson to turn over his gun, badge, and city vehicle. Those items had been issued before he was sworn in. The city could not produce records related to Pearson’s salary. Burks said Pearson wasn’t paid and will not be paid.
Decaturish has requested a copy of any letters Pearson gave to the city on Aug. 9.
Pearson’s hiring is one of several questionable things that occurred during Qawiy’s time as city manager. In addition to Pearson’s hiring, other contracts may have been awarded without the full council’s knowledge or approval.
Councilmember Laura Hopkins believes there are at least four contracts issued under Qawiy’s watch that would be considered void, according to an analysis provided by Clarkston’s attorney: Pearson’s contract, a contract for a human resources consultant, a contract for a public relations firm, and a contract for security cameras. During a July 25 meeting, only Hopkins moved to amend the agenda to add a discussion of the four outstanding city contracts that did not go through proper channels, including the one with Pearson. The motion failed, lacking a second.
Burks also said on Aug. 9 that the council will hold a special meeting and designate Finance Director Dan Defnall as acting city manager, then look for an interim city manager followed by a search for a permanent city manager.
Under Clarkston’s code, Qawiy was supposed to designate an acting city manager who could fulfill her duties if she wasn’t there. Hopkins said the city doesn’t know if Qawiy designated anyone as acting city manager. Currently, each department head is managing their own department, she said.
Mayor Burks confirmed that Qawiy didn’t designate anyone.
Councilmember Jamie Carroll said the council could have appointed Defnall as an acting city manager on Monday when the council parted ways with Qawiy. But he said certain members of the council blame him for Qawiy’s departure.
“The problem is some people on the council were upset at Defnall for his perceived role … and that’s why he wouldn’t be appointed city manager,” Carroll said.
Defnall sounded the alarm about things that were happening within the city government before the council approved a separation agreement with Qawiy. He recently threatened legal action against the city following a confrontation with Qawiy over the availability of rental assistance funds. This came two weeks after Defnall warned the council about payment requests he’d received from the city manager, two of which involved Vice Mayor Debra Johnson.
Right before this story was published, Clarkston announced a special called meeting on Aug. 10 to appoint an acting city manager. That meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at 3921 Church Street.
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